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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Lectionary Scriptures: Acts 11:1-18, Psalm 148:1-14, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35

The lectionary readings for the coming Sunday got me to thinking about where my inclusiveness comes from.  I cannot remember ever thinking that groups needed to be excluded because of their color or creed, etc.  It feels like there’s something in my inner being that protests against the idea of rejecting people or living according to some kind of hierarchical classification.  I want to argue that such systems are against human nature, but somehow there are those around who seem to be inhabited by other attitudes.  (At the moment I’m talking about individual attitudes, not institutional structures where we all participate in prejudicial systems---which raise another question:  Where do those come from?)

I don’t remember my parents ever uttering a word or expressing an attitude that evaluated other people or groups negatively.  We lived near the railroad where “hoboes” regularly knocked at our door seeking a meal.  They were never turned away without one, regardless of color.  My grandfather used to say, “I’d rather feed ten men who were playing me than turn away one in real need.”  The church I grew up in welcomed German refugees following World War II as well as Japanese-Americans who had been released from internment camps.  One of my teenage memories is of eating in the home of one of those Japanese-American families.  I suppose the biggest prejudices in the small northwest Washington community where I grew up were against Native Americans and Japanese-Americans, but I was encouraged to interact freely with both.  My earliest ministries had me living in Hispanic and Native American communities.  (Again, I’m not trying to claim I’m free of all prejudicial attitudes, simply that most of the influences that got through to me were in the opposite direction.  I could offer a number of other examples.)

Whatever the other influences, I would suggest that inclusiveness is a “God” thing.  It’s impossible to be closely attuned to the presence of God without sharing in the inclusive Love that emanates from the Divine Mystery.  Earlier I talked about wanting to claim that exclusiveness is against human nature.  More importantly, my experience is that it’s against God nature, or, if you wish, against the very nature of the universe and reality and Life.  All kinds of life have an existence in reality as we know it.  They are included and “accepted” as part of the amazing throbbing whole.

Scripture then is only part of the picture, a testimony to how we human beings experience reality and the presence of God.  Yet, I am a person who is and has been influenced by scripture.  In this week’s readings I see testimony to a God who is inclusive in ways that boggle the mind and who calls us to participate in that inclusiveness.

 The reading from Acts is a story specifically about expanding the horizons of inclusiveness.  It tells of a vision that came to Peter in which he was told to go minister to a Gentile Centurion, a person he deemed unclean, not someone he should associate with.  In fact, to do so, he thought, would violate his religious commitments and put his soul at risk.  The story is told in chapter ten and now, in chapter 11, Peter repeats the story to “the apostles and the believers who were in Judea” a bit concerned that perhaps “the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God.”  (Acts 11:1)  Consider the following verses:

1.      Verse 9---“What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”
2.      Verse 12---“The Spirit told me to go with them and not make a distinction between them and us.”
3.      Verse 18---“Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Obviously the issue here was the inclusion of the Gentiles.  Sometimes we need to be reminded that our roots are in Judaism and that the inclusion of the Gentiles (that’s most of us) was a major leap.  Peter must have been stunned. 

How hard it is for us to get beyond old perceptions.  In contrast to what I said earlier, if I grew up with a major prejudice, it would have been against Catholics.  There were few Catholics in our small community and the church was about a block from my home.  It worried me when I walked past.  Who knew what demonic things might be going on in there?  At the same time, I had no trouble playing with my Catholic classmates, some of whom were neighbors.  It was only in my college years when I became friends with an older Catholic co-worker that I realized that here also was a creature of God.  God is always calling us to a larger inclusiveness.

One might also pursue the themes of clean and unclean in reflecting on this text---“clean” and “unclean” being another way of drawing lines that include and exclude.  In Peter’s day these categories were applied to, among other things, what foods were acceptable and unacceptable.  His vision is of a sheet coming from heaven filled with all kinds of “unclean” food.  A voice invites him to eat and he refuses.  (vss. 5-8)  It’s interesting that the vision has to be repeated three times before Peter gets it.  (vs. 10)  Sometimes it takes a lot to get our attention and change our prejudices.  We might treat this story as calling us to ask ourselves about the ways in which we use nice neat categories for the organization of our thinking, our behavior, our relationships.

The Psalm stretches the inclusion even further.  It is an ecstatic hymn calling all creatures and all creation to sing out in praise.  Consider the list: angels, sun and moon, stars, heavens, waters above the heavens, monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind, mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds, kings and all people, princes and all rulers, young men and women, old and young.  (vss. 2-4 & 7-12)  If that isn’t inclusive I don’t know what is.  Imagine a gathering in a sanctuary with birds flying around, a tiger at the end of your pew, snowflakes falling from the ceiling, water bubbling up from the floor.  Of course, part of the point is that God’s inclusiveness is much larger than anything that can be contained in a sanctuary.

I’ve commented a bit the past two weeks on the Book of Revelation.  The only thing I will add from this week’s reading is the inclusiveness that reaches beyond all that exists in the present moment.  God’s inclusiveness is defined by the statement:  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”  (Revelation 21:6)  Back when I was in seminary, Your God Is Too Small was a popular book by J.B. Phillips.  The title says it all.  Anything less than a God who is all-inclusive is not the God we find in this week’s lectionary readings.

In the story as told in John’s Gospel, Jesus spends time after his final meal with the disciples trying to prepare them to live when his physical presence no longer walks and talks with them.  Several chapters are sometimes thought of as “Farewell Discourses.”  This week’s reading includes his central instruction for the life that is ahead of them.  “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35---The same words are spoken in John 15:12. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”)  He passes the torch of inclusiveness to us.  It is as if he says, “I represent a God of inclusive Love.  Now it’s up to you to carry on that work of representation.”

Why are we inclusive?  Where does inclusiveness come from?  It comes from God who calls us to see the wonder of his Love at work in and through all people and all things in every age from beginning to end and beyond---or as Buzz Lightyear might say, “To Infinity and Beyond.”
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Lectionary Scriptures: Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23:1-6, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30

A science fiction fan at least since early adolescence, I’ve gotten hooked on S.M. Stirling’s series of “Novels of the Change.”  The underlying story is a cosmic battle between the powers of good and evil.  Rudi Mackenzie and his band of brothers and sisters are on a quest.  Yes, there’s a sword involved, and Rudi (“the High King of Montival”) is to use it to save the world from the fate wished upon it by those who are possessed by evil sinister powers.  Although the story is engrossing and page-turningly full of action, there is far too much violent physical battle and blood (waged in armor with lances, swords, and arrows because modern technology is no longer available) to suit me.  It’s downright sickening at times.  The methods of this “savior” are not those of Jesus.

I’m assuming that at the end of this series evil will have been destroyed (at least in the deep spiritual cosmic sense).  That too is the assumption of Christian scripture, sometimes through what is depicted as violent cosmic warfare.  Whatever the methods, that is a core component of our faith.  Good overcomes evil.  Love and forgiveness are stronger that hate and revenge.  The methods to which followers of Jesus are called to commit themselves are not the violence of swordplay but the peace and reconciliation of love and compassion.

Sometimes when I read selected lectionary texts that’s about all I can take away---and isn’t that perhaps enough?  I personally didn’t find much inspiration in the texts for the coming Sunday, so most of what I write will be about the relative power of life and death, a good resurrection theme---and we are still in the liturgical season of Easter.

First a little side trip about the one scripture which rarely fails to move those of a certain age who have grown up in the church.  In fact, the power of the 23rd Psalm reaches far beyond the walls of the church.  As one who grew up with early connections to dairying, I relate to bonds that can develop between animals and those who are responsible for their care and feeding.  This rereading brought to mind the term “animal husbandry.”  What a strange word!  What does the word “husband” have to do with caring for animals?  “Husband,” of course, has a verb form.  We speak of “husbanding” resources, for instance.  Etymologically the word comes from an Old English word for a “householder,” including one who is a steward of household resources.  It is a stewardship word.  Now there’s something to think about.

My theme for this week, though, leads me to verse four.  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil . . .”  (Psalm 23:4)  Some of us know “the darkest valley” best as “the valley of the shadow of death.”  Either way, good overcomes evil; life is more powerful than death---the basic resurrection message.

So, do we really believe that?  At our weekly lectionary breakfast I posed the question whether we are optimists or pessimists.  We had a difficult time getting beyond the ups and downs of our personal lives.  We face medical tests and surgery and family problems.  Do we always see the possibilities of good outcomes or are we always expecting the worst?  Those are important daily existential questions, but I had in mind a larger, cosmic question---although I believe our attitudes toward daily trials and tribulations are colored by our reading of the larger battles of good against evil.

But what about where we are headed in this tumultuous world?  We wake up to another massacre, this time maiming bombs at the end of the Boston Marathon.  Another effort to address gun violence---a moderate one at that, supported by 90% of the American populace---fails.  Some days it’s difficult to believe that good will prevail---although good always springs into action to comfort and heal the victims.  If I’m to be an optimist (and I believe I am), it has to be something more than a na├»ve and simple belief that denies the reality of destruction that threatens almost every day.

The kind of optimism I find in the Bible is an optimism that includes a cross on the way toward a reconciling finale.  It is hope beyond hope, beyond the immediate evidence, beyond the easy solutions and avoidance of trouble we desire.

So---here are some comments about the other lectionary texts for Sunday, each of which, in its own way, aids our reflection on the power of life and death.

Acts gives us a resurrection story.  This time it is Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, whom Peter apparently brings back from death.  (Acts 9:36-41)  Those who have trouble with resurrections (including me) suggest that she was not dead, only in some kind of comatose state.  It really makes no difference to me.  Something happened that is a mystery beyond words I can put on paper, or even bring to order in my mind.  The message is that life is more powerful than death, and that is enough.  It’s worth also noting that Peter is not alone.  Dorcas is surrounded by weeping women who knew her work, “the clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.”  (vs. 39)  The community is brought together and their presence is a source of strength when death-dealing forces beset us---and our work lives on beyond us, is remembered.  Someone at breakfast also noticed that Tabitha/Dorcas is called “a disciple.”  (vs. 36)

Revelation again depicts a savior who offers hope to “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.”  (Revelation 7:9)  The story as it unfolds may seem more like Rudi Mackenzie’s quest than the way of the Jesus we see in the Gospels, but the message is still that good overcomes evil.  We are shown, however, that it does not happen without trouble along the way.  Those who are surrounding “the Lamb” have come through “”a great ordeal,” what some call a time of tribulation.  (vs. 14)  Many have made much about “The Tribulation” as a time in the unfolding of history.  I’m content to live with an optimism that helps me find my way through whatever tribulations occur in the process of daily living, as they are bound to occur---without limiting it to a specific thousand year period.

Behind this week’s Gospel lesson is the knowledge that a crucifixion is coming.  My optimism is always shaped by that knowledge.  Christian optimism is based on the realization that good overcoming evil involves great cost and great diligence.  Somebody’s apt to die in the process---and somebody is always willing to pay that cost, to lay down his or her life standing up for the power of love.  It isn’t necessarily in the battle of armed conflict; it may be just in persisting to stand up for one’s rights and beliefs day after day in our living.

The reading from John’s Gospel suggests that we can perceive the power of life over death only when we have eyes to see and ears to hear.  It comes more subtly than the flash of an explosion.  When asked whether he is the Messiah (the one come to set everything right in the world), Jesus answers, “I have told you, and you do not believe.”  (John 10:25)  Only those who are ready to follow---like sheep as in Psalm 23---are able to see.  (vs. 27)  Those who are connected with “Life” through him participate in “eternal life” and no one can “snatch” them away.  (vs. 28)

The Gospel According to John makes much of the fact that Jesus and the Father are one.  (vs. 30)  It’s a great mystery how the wonder of God’s Love resides in Jesus, but we look to him and we see into the very nature of divinity.  Love lives in our midst and it is more powerful than death.  In this reading, Jesus says, “What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.”  (vs. 29)

I believe that the power of life is greater than the power of death.  I have difficulty understanding how one can live without that kind of optimism.  At the same time, at the risk of heading off in a new direction with my reflections, I would do my best to live by the ways of Love even if there were no Resurrection, no hope of eternal life, simply because there is a mysterious rightness about love which captures me in the midst of all the troubles that keep popping up in every day’s new headlines.  In my rash younger years, when I was challenging the notion that God condemns people to hell, I said, “If anyone is going to hell, then I’m called to go there too.  That’s what love demands and I learned that from Jesus.”  It was rash, but I still believe it’s underlying essence---but mostly I’m an optimist who has experienced enough of God’s Love through Jesus to believe that it has the power to overcome eternally.
Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lectionary Scriptures: Acts 9:1-20, Psalm 30:1-12, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19

To celebrate the Resurrection is to celebrate new beginnings.  We once had two copies of Beginnings Without End by Sam Keen in our household.  Now we can find neither.  I don’t know what that says about second and third and fourth chances---beginning again, but one of Sam Keen’s musings has stuck with me for over thirty years.  “I have learned one thing in life---how to begin again.”

It’s the nature of the compassionate, loving, forgiving God I serve to give us new chances---or some of you may want to acknowledge nothing more than the opportunities to start over which are part of the very fabric of existence.  In some Christian traditions new beginnings are understood as sudden, dramatic conversions, but new chances may be a subtle as the dawning of the new day.  As one member of our breakfast lectionary group said, “Each night I pray that I may awake tomorrow morning to new opportunities with the troubles and missteps of this day wiped clean.”

The lectionary readings for this Sunday offer some perspectives on such new beginnings.

Acts, chapter nine gives us the story of Saul’s dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus.  Saul, before he became known as Paul, missionary and pioneer in the early church, was a persecutor of those who followed the way of Jesus.  He was a representative of the high priest who saw Jesus as a threat to the traditional ways of the Jews and particularly to those who held power among the Jews.  (Acts 9:1-2)  In an experience that stretches our credulity, he meets Jesus in a flashing light and voice from heaven.  (vss. 3-6)  Even those who were present “stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one.”  (vs. 7)  Saul was blinded. (vss. 8-9)

Then something equally stunning occurs.  One of the Christians, Ananias, whom Saul was on his way to persecute, receives a vision calling him to go “and lay his hands on” this persecutor, “so that he might regain his sight.”  (vss. 10-12)  Understandably Ananias doesn’t respond with immediate enthusiasm to the idea.  (vss. 13-14)  It would be as if God came to us and told us to welcome a terrorist into our home.   

New beginnings may come with some cooperation from those who call themselves followers of Jesus.  God may not be able to offer new chances unless we also are willing to welcome those we thought were enemies.  I know that the United Church of Christ says, “Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome,” but does that include my enemies?

Our God is a God of new chances, but that means he calls us also to be a people of new chances.  In this story from Acts, Ananias and the early Christians rose to the challenge.  They took Saul in and “for several days he was with” them in Damascus.  (vss.  17-19)  He set off a new man on a new mission.  (vs. 20)

Psalm 30, which we’ve had fairly recently as a lectionary reading, is also about a new beginning.  The writer speaks of arising from dark days, a time of near death, and having been “restored” to life.  (Psalm 30:1-3)  The images that most frequently catch my eye in this Psalm are those of weeping turning to joy and mourning into dancing.  “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning . . . You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy . . .”  (vss. 5 & 11)  It may be no consolation when we’re in the middle of dark hole, but most of us who have lived a few years can remember coming out on the other side of such depths and recovering our ability to laugh and enjoy life.  It is a resurrection of sorts.  Beyond our weeping, God offers a new chance.

The Book of Revelation is always difficult to interpret.  It’s about a new beginning grandiose beyond imagining.  It paints a dream like process (with nightmare elements) which brings into being a new heaven and a new earth.  At its heart, it is a reminder of the kingdom in which believers (in this case, under persecution) live.  It is one in which Jesus reigns, depicted in glorious images in the lectionary reading for Sunday.  “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and honor and glory and blessing! . . . To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessings and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”  (Revelation 5:12-13)

These are resurrection images.  We can project them into the future, which many have done.  We can see in them images of the powers bearing down upon the early churches, which some have done.  We can also remember that Jesus spoke of his kingdom being in our midst.  This brief reading can call us to think about who, and what causes and values, we serve.  New beginnings often occur when we choose to follow a new leader, make new values central in our journey through life, adopt a new mission.  Sometimes we may overdramatize the changes that may come with new beginnings, but paying attention to our core values and commitments may open new chances, new roads, new kingdoms?, before us.

Finally, the Gospel lesson, which tells about a post-Resurrection encounter between Jesus and his disciples along the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, showing us some of the simple things that can happen among a group of scattered and disillusioned people.  (John 21:1-2)  They’ve seen the one they had loved, and in whom they had found hope, crucified on a cross.  They’ve heard that he is somehow still alive, but they are mostly skeptical about it. 

They’ve gone back to their basic means of livelihood: fishing.  They’ve fished all night when Jesus appears on the beach and tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat.  Their net is suddenly so full that “they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.”  (vss. 3-6)  Sometimes when given a new chance, one can do best by starting in a new place---again focusing oneself in a new direction.

Somebody even counted the fish---153 of them.  (vs. 11)  Probably the number is used to signify inclusiveness---153 being the number of species thought to exist in those days.  The “fish” who are drawn into God’s kingdom include all known varieties---of human beings as well as fish.  New beginnings, perhaps, connect us in ways we had not previously imagined.  We have a whole world of brothers and sisters and cousins.

 In the meantime, Peter recognized Jesus, jumped into the water, and made his way to the shore.  (vss. 7-8)  New chances may fill us with this kind of enthusiasm and perhaps a willingness to “take chances”---a leap of faith, so to speak.

Jesus begins to make breakfast and serves it in a scene reminiscent of the Communion Meal (only with bread and fish instead of bread and a cup).  “Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.” (vss. 10-13)  We might dwell on Jesus’ servant role here, the preparer of the meal.  What I see is another instance in which gathering in community, having the support of a community, sharing with one another what sustains body and soul, are important to new beginnings.

The Gospel reading ends with a clear invitation to Peter to begin again.  He has denied Jesus three times.  Now he is given three opportunities to declare his commitment anew to Jesus’ mission.  Each time he is asked whether he loves Jesus.  When he declares that he does, Peter is told to “Feed my sheep.”  We could dwell on the variations (“Feed my lambs.”  “Tend my sheep.”  Feed my sheep.”), but for now my focus is upon the mission into which those who loved Jesus are called.  (vss. 15-17)  It is a mission of feeding.  New beginnings often require us to turn outward toward others.  Only in service of others do we find fullness and meaning in life.  Jesus’ drives the point home with the words, “Follow me.”  (vs. 19)

When we partake of the Resurrection, we never quite know what new chances and new beginnings may come our way!
Monday, April 01, 2013
Lectionary Scriptures: Acts 5:27-37, Psalm 118:14-29, Psalm 150:1-6, Revelation 1:4-8, John 20:19-31

Religious faith, movements, etc., often arise from experiences of hardship and oppression.  Religious organizations have often been coopted by the forces of empire, used to subjugate as often as liberate, but their faith has also provided the basis for resisting abusive authority.  Faith sees life through a different lens and offers an alternative for the measurement of life, worth, and daily living.

Those of us in the more “progressive” branch of Christianity sometimes offer scathing critiques of our more conservative brethren.  Some of us, however, came out of that tradition and see a people who were not afraid to be different.  Don’t misunderstand me; I’m glad I moved on.  The places they chose to be “different” are not always the places I would choose today, but the people of faith taught me that I didn’t have to go along with everyone else.  I didn’t have to make my faith (and the resulting behaviors) fit with majority opinion.

Let me give just two examples, which may seem lame and pathetic to some of you.  I offer them simply as examples of not going along.  I was taught that dancing was something inappropriate.  I no longer believe that, although I never learned enough dancing skills to be very comfortable doing it.  During my school years I was so convinced that it was wrong that I refused to participate in dancing when it was included in our Physical Education classes.  Silly?  Probably!  It certainly caused a stir.  An early experience, for me, of nonviolent resistance.  The school system came to respect my wishes, and those of others like me.

Fighting was also something I was taught Christians didn’t do.  (Just overlook all the bickering among the various factions in the church.)  I applied it to schoolyard and playground behavior, where fights seem to arise among children, sometimes involving bullying.  Whenever anyone challenged me, I simply refused to fight.  If they attacked me and began to pommel me or trid to wrestle me to the ground, I let my body go limp, leaving them in a somewhat embarrassing position.  Again, it’s not unlike the behavior we see when protestors face arrest by the police.

At least two of the lectionary readings for this Sunday remind us that our faith calls us to live according to an alternative authority than that of imperialism.  The story in the passage from Acts comes after an angel has assisted in allowing the apostles to escape from prison.  (Acts 5:19)  Earlier they had been ordered “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”  (Acts 4:18)  They immediately went back to their preaching.  (Acts 5:25)  They were brought before the Jewish council and reminded, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching . . .”  (vss. 27-28)

Their response is what triggered my theme for this week’s thoughts:  “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”  (vs. 29)  It’s a resurrection message, an Easter statement.  The power of the resurrection is stronger than the power of governments.  Situations may arise that call for civil disobedience, and we find the apostles leading the way in that activity. This is but one biblical example, Daniel being another.

There’s more in this Acts passage.  It gives us a glimpse into the position the council members find themselves.  “ . . . you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us,” they say.   (vs. 28)  They are embarrassed, perhaps even blamed and endangered because of the stir this preaching is causing.  Words like these have inappropriately been used in the cause of anti-Semitism, when, in fact, they just reflect a power-struggle among religious factions in that day.  Are we going to resist the wrongs of power or not?  As in last week’s reading from Acts, we also find again the emphasis upon being “witnesses” to the power of the Resurrection.  (vs. 32)

The reading from the Gospel According to John offers us “peace” as an alternative to triumphalism as we consider the Easter message.  So much of the church’s language, even today, is that of victory and triumph---adapted from military language.  I’m not suggesting that we entirely do away with such language.  It’s there in some of our lectionary readings for this Sunday.  We repeat again the reading from Psalm 118 which speaks of “glad songs of victory.”  (Psalm 118:15) The reading as presented this week, however, ends on the simple and profound note:  “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  (vs. 29)

John records Jesus’ arrival in a house where the disciples “were locked for fear of the Jews.”  (John 20:19-31)  Three times in these verses, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”  (vss. 19, 21, & 26)  Jesus doesn’t walk into the room and move around slapping hands in dramatic “high fives.”  He does not shout, “I guess we showed them who is more powerful.”  He doesn’t ask them to drop to their knees in obeisance.  He offers an alternative to the power that has scared them into this locked room.  The power of the resurrection is the power of peace rather than of empire.  We don’t have to go along with all the violence.  What the risen Lord offers is peace.

Again, there so much more in this Gospel reading.  The breathing of the Holy Spirit as an alternative to the more popular and familiar Pentecost story.  (vs.22)  The bequeathing of the power to forgive sins.  (vs. 23)  Poor Thomas, who only wanted to see what the others had seen.  His desire is granted a week later, but is told, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  (vss. 24-29)  And again, the closing word that this story is being told “so that you come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  (vs. 31)  Each of those verses could be the basis for another blog, providing a perspective on resurrections life and alternatives.  Feel free to go off in one of those directions if you wish.

That leaves another reading from the Psalms and one from the Book of Revelation.  In Revelation we find another of those shots into the future, one in which there is expectation crying out:  “Look!  He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.  So it is to be.  Amen.”  (Revelation 1:7)  I’m not even going there today.  When I think about issues of authority and power and the ability to resist, I lock onto two verses in this reading.  Jesus, the writer says, has “made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.”  (vs. 6)  We are an alternative kingdom.  We are citizens of an alternative world where the rules of love and peace reign.  We don’t have to go along with abusive imperial power, power based on intimidation and violence.

And the reading from Revelation ends with the declaration;  “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  (vs. 8)  There is much that I don’t understand and can’t explain, but I believe the eternal forces of the universe are empowered by peace and love.  That’s an alternative that gives life.

Finally, Psalm 150 (the last of the Psalms) is another Psalm of praise.  In the context of this particular discussion we could see it as a song of praise sung in celebration victory---or resurrection.  I choose to see it also as a Psalm of peace in which all life sings in a harmony almost beyond imagination.  “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord!”  (Psalm 150:6)  If we all did that together, it would be something that the councils of this world couldn’t silence.

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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